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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Women Line Up for Public Chamber

More than 300 candidacies have been submitted for the Public Chamber, and many of them are women, a chamber member said Friday.

"Only 14 of the 42 current members are women, and we hope to have more," said member Lidia Blokhina, the president of the International Social-Economic Union. "Our president is very sensitive to women's problems."

Blokhina did not say exactly how many applications had come from women, but said the women apparently were looking to the chamber as an opportunity to have a greater say in the government, which is dominated by men.

The Public Chamber will vote on the candidacies in early November.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the establishment of the Public Chamber in the wake of the Beslan school attack in 2004 as a way to give civil society a say in government affairs. Putin appointed its first 42 members in late September, and those members are now picking 42 members from national nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations. The chamber will then pick its final 42 members from regional NGOs.

The first members are a mix of religious leaders, doctors, journalists, athletes, artists and businessmen.

Human rights organizations, which are boycotting the chamber over fears that it will be a puppet of the Kremlin, said meanwhile that they would back the candidacy of renowned lawyer Genri Reznik in hope that he would be able to make a difference in the chamber.

"Reznik believes that he will be able to do something in that chamber. This is why we are backing him," said Lev Ponomaryov, the head of For Human Rights.

Reznik is the president of the Moscow City Bar Association, and his clients have included self-exiled businessman Vladimir Gusinsky, former Sibur president Yakov Goldovsky and German journalist Klaus-Helge Donath, who was sued by a songwriter after he criticized a song praising Putin.

The chamber can offer nonbinding recommendations to the government and parliament on domestic policy, weigh in on legislation, request investigations into possible breaches of the law and request information from government agencies.

Although Putin has frequently mentioned the chamber in televised remarks, half of all Russians have no idea what it is, according to a national survey released Friday by the state-controlled VTsIOM polling agency. The survey also found that only 10 percent of respondents considered themselves well-informed about the chamber.